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Complications in Body Piercing

1 August 2006


Objective: The purpose of this study is to investigate the rate of infection requiring medical intervention and to identify any correlation between the piercing site and increased risk of infection. .

Background: Body piercing, which was once confined primarily to ear lobes in the United States, has been on the rise in the last thirty years and piercing sites are now both numerous and varied. At this time, there is no evidence of slowing in the trend toward the acceptance and main streaming of body piercing, especially as it relates to the more common piercings and sites Given the expected continued increase in prevalence, studies have indicated an expectation that practitioners will see an increase in infections and other complications, in a variety of body piercing sites. In addition, there has been speculation that the increasing prevalence of body piercing and their complications will pose an increasing economic burden on the health care system.

Subjects and Methods: A mixed convenience and network sample of pierced individuals (213 females, 48 males, 1 transgender) from websites such as Craig list, as well as 6 bulletin boards devoted to body piercing; 4 based in the United States, 1 in the United Kingdom and 1 in Australia. The survey requested information concerning demographics, issues of piercer training, site choice, non infectious complications, signs of infection, and medical treatment of piercing site complications as well as two Likert-type questions addressing issues of patient satisfaction with their perception of the piercing knowledge base of the health care provider-from whom they sought treatment.

Results: 265 surveys were included for analysis based on the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Men were significantly older than women (P=.003). There was no statistically significant difference in educational level by between males and females (P .289). Men are more likely to have a piercing done outside a professional establishment (P=.OOOl). Those who received their piercing in a professional setting were more likely to be younger (P=.0096). There was no difference in education level between those who received their piercings in a professional setting and those who did not (P= .2729). There was no statistically significant difference between those with normal healing/site reactions and those with site infections by gender (P =.2843), age (P=.2332), or education (P=.2213) or in regard to following after care instructions. (P=.4949). The incidence of infectious complications was 25%; however the incidence of infection rate requiring medical intervention was 2%. The data collected was unsuitable for determining correlations between the piercing site and increased risk of infection. There were no reported incidences of transmission of Hepatitis, or other serious infectious complications.

Conclusion: Body piercing continues to gain popularity, but despite increasing prevalence our study did not indicate an increase in the rate of infectious complications. Site infection rates were comparable with rates found in other studies. An increase in economic burden predicted previously was not found. We found an infection rate of 2% requiring medical intervention. Although the number of medical interventions will increase with increasing prevalence, it is unlikely, given the low incidence of seeking medical treatment that this will cause a significant economic burden on the health care system.


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